Cultivating the Next Generation of Live Event and Expo Professionals

by Latoya Lewis

How did you land your first job in the events industry?

If you’re like me and many of my colleagues, you may have “fallen” into the profession. But how different might your career have been if you had access to a purposeful pathway to help you discover, explore and pursue your interests in events and expos earlier–perhaps even in high school?

EnventU, a non-profit education initiative that I launched two years ago, serves exactly that purpose. It provides opportunities where traditionally there have been few, both for young people and event professionals.

Through EnventU, public high school students from underserved communities get an up-close and hands-on look at the events industry. Business leaders and technical professionals guide students as they produce a real event for a local client. Students learn about and make decisions regarding catering and décor, audio/visual needs, lighting, graphic design and more, over ten weeks.

Since the inaugural session in 2015, participating sophomores and juniors have created and/or staffed corporate holiday events, trade shows and expos, professional conferences, and even a 3,500-attendee rock concert.

It’s been said that the best way to cultivate leadership is to expose learners to great leaders. EnventU makes it easy for industry veterans to inspire the next generation of event professionals as guest speakers and mentors, or as guides through the inner-workings of their businesses during vendor field trips. Some of the initiative’s partners have even created unique opportunities for learning for some of the most promising participants.

In April, EnventU partnered with InfoComm International® to provide students from the Columbia Heights Educational Campus (CHEC) in Washington, DC, with hands-on in-classroom presentations, a virtual audiovisual learning opportunity, and the chance to win an all-expenses paid trip to Orlando to attend the 2017 InfoComm Annual Convention.

Fifty CHEC students received a crash course on the A/V industry, its businesses, career opportunities, and innovative technologies. Three students who participated in the classroom presentations completed the 10-hour, self-paced virtual course and wrote an essay to demonstrate their understanding of A/V’s critical role in creating a successful event were chosen to receive the all-expenses-paid trip to Orlando. Summit Event Productions, a boutique lighting design and production firm, and DAL Productions sponsored the student’s travel.

As we develop the curriculum for EnventU’s third fall season, I hope more event and exhibit producers, buyers, sellers and industry vendors will join us in providing enriching learning experiences for students who might not otherwise receive such opportunities.

Latoya Lewis is the founder & executive director of EnventU. Opinions are her own. She can be reached through her website at http://www.enventU.org. Follow her on Twitter @EnventUOrg.

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